Characteristics Of Living And Non Living Things

We can find many things around us. Some of them are living and others are non living. The earth in which we all are living is made up of several things. A dog, cat, birds, bench, soil, mountains, air, water, car, tree, flowers, rock, minerals, and a lot more things that make up the ecosystem.

There are two different types of things in the ecosystem – Living and Non living Things.

  • All living things breathe, eat, grow, move, reproduce and have senses.
  • Non living things do not eat, grow, breathe, move and reproduce. They do not have senses.

Some objects do possess that elusive thing called life, although they might not show the evident signs of life like a human. A tree would probably not react the same way as a human. It would not react when we hit it and it might not walk around. Since the signs of life displayed by them are least observable and do not make them non living.

Let us have a detailed look at the important characteristics of living and non living things and the difference between the two.

Living things

Living things exist and are alive, sustaining life. They own life. Living things have structures known as cells, they grow and exhibit movement or locomotion. They experience metabolism which includes anabolic and catabolic reactions.

Living things are capable of producing a new life which is of their own kind through the process of reproduction. Living things have a particular life span and are not immortal.

Cellular Respiration  enables living organisms to acquire energy which is used by cells to perform their functions. They digest food for energy and also excrete waste from the body. Their life cycle can be summarised as follows – birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

Examples of living things are: Animals, birds, insects, human beings

Characteristics Of Living Things

Characteristics of Living Things

Following are the important characteristics of living things:

  1. Living things exhibit locomotory motion, they move. Animals are able to move as they possess specialized locomotory organs, for example – Earthworms move through the soil surface through longitudinal and circular muscles.  Plants respond to the movement of the sun.
  2. Living things respire. Respiration is a chemical reaction which occurs inside cells to release energy from the food. Transport of gases takes place. The food that is ingested through the process of digestion is broken down to release energy that is utilized by the body to produce water and carbon dioxide as by-products.
  3. Living things are sensitive to touch and have the capability to sense changes in their ambience
  4. They grow. Living things mature and grow through different stages of development.
  5. One of the striking features is that living things are capable to produce offsprings of their own kind through the process of reproduction wherein genetic information is passed from the parents to the offsprings.
  6. They acquire and fulfil their nutritional requirements to survive through the process of nutrition and digestion, which involves engulfing and digesting the food.
  7. The digested food is eliminated from the body through the process of excretion.

Non Living things

Non living things are not alive. They do not possess life. They do not have cells and don’t grow or show locomotion/movement. They don’t undergo metabolism with anabolic and catabolic reactions. They do not reproduce.

Non living things do not have a life span. They do not respire as they do not require food for energy and hence do not excrete. They do not fall into any cycle of – born, grow, reproduce and die. They are destroyed or broken down by external force.

Examples of non living things include stone, pen, book, cycle, bottle, etc.

Characteristics Of Non living Things

The important characteristics of non living things are mentioned below:

  1. Non living things are lifeless. They do not have cells, there is no protoplasm which forms the basis for life to exist.
  2. Lack of protoplasm leads to absolutely no metabolic activities
  3. They do not have a definite and certain size of their own. They take the shape of the substance they are contained in, for example, a liquid takes the shape of its container. The change in the state of a non living thing is due to an external influence.
  4. Non living things grow by accretion. It occurs through adding materials externally. For example, A snowball may increase in size due to the accumulation of smaller units of its own to its outer surface.
  5. Non living things never die. They exist eternally. Immortality is a distinguishing factor
  6. Absence of fundamental life processes such as reproduction, nutrition, excretion, etc are the features of non living things.

Difference between Living and Non living things

Here are some of the major difference between living and non living things:

They possess life. They do not possess life.
Living things are capable of giving birth to their young one. Non living things do not reproduce.
For survival, living things are depended on water, air, and food. They are self-dependent.
Living things are sensitive and responsive to stimuli Non living things are not sensitive and do not respond to stimuli
Metabolic reactions occur constantly in all living things. There are no Metabolic reactions in Non living things.
Living organisms undergo growth and development. Non living things do not grow or develop.
They have a lifespan and are not immortal. They have no lifespan and are immortal.
Living things move from one place to another. Non living things cannot move by themselves.
They respire and exchange of gases takes place in their cells. Non living things do not respire.
Example: Humans, animals, plants, insects. Example: Rock, pen, buildings, gadgets.

Criteria for Differentiating Living things from Non living things

For easy differentiation between living things and non living things, scientists have come up with traits or characteristics that are unique to them.

The criterion for classification is necessary to avoid the wrong grouping. Hence science developed a basis for classification. Anything that has life is considered as living beings.

For example– humans, trees, dogs, etc.

While things which have no life in it are considered as non living.

For example– stone, mountain, watch, etc.

Scientists have discovered a few criteria for differentiating living things from non living things.

Here are some of them:

  1. Living beings can grow and develop.
  2. Living beings obtain and use energy.
  3. Living beings adapt to their environment.
  4. All living beings are made of one or more cells.
  5. Living beings respond to their environment or stimuli.
  6. All living things excrete to remove waste material from the body.
  7. Living beings have the ability to give birth to their young once through the process of reproduction.
  8. All living beings require energy to perform different metabolic activities and they gain energy from food/ nutrition.
  9. All living beings, apart from plants move from one place to another. This type of movement is called as the locomotion.
  10. All living beings, including humans, animals, plants,  birds, and insects require oxygen gas to breath and produce energy.

If something obeys a few of the rules, it cannot be categorized as a living thing. It has to stringently follow all the given rules. For example, an icicle, although it grows (increase its mass or length), is still a non living thing since it cannot reproduce, or respond to stimuli.

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